Sauces, spreads, and other toppings, like cream cheese, often add extra calories to a bodybuilding diet.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, if you consider the type of training phase you’re in (bulking or cutting), and the meal timing (whether it’s pre or post workout).
As a bodybuilder, you must also consider the macronutrient profile of cream cheese and decide whether it fits your overall diet goals.
So, is cream cheese good or bad for bodybuilding?
Cream cheese is a great way to add calories to your bodybuilding diet. This is essential for those that are in a bulking phase. However, cream cheese is composed of saturated fats, so you need to consume it in moderation for overall health reasons. Also, cream cheese is low in protein — not ideal for bodybuilding.
I’ve actually written lots about how bodybuilders can eat cheese on a high protein diet, but although cream cheese has the word “cheese,” don’t let it fool you as it doesn’t have the same composition as traditional cheese.
In this article, I will explore:
- The calories and macronutrient breakdown of cream cheese
- The micronutrients it has and how it helps a bodybuilder
- Pros and cons of adding cream cheese if you are a bodybuilder
- Whether you can eat cream cheese before or after training
- Does cream cheese help with muscle growth?
- Tips and tricks to add cream cheese if you are a bodybuilder
Cream Cheese For Bodybuilding: Overview
Nutritional Content of Cream Cheese
In one tablespoon of cream cheese (14.5 g), you can find the following nutritional value.
- Calories: 50.8
- Carbs: 0.8 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Protein: 0.9 g
- Fats: 5.0 g
Cream cheese is a high-calorie food. In only 1 tbsp you get 50 calories, which can add up quickly.
Although it might be tempting to grab the knife and put any amount of cream cheese on top of your bagel, you might want to control the portion size. It is easy to eat more calories. Although you need a caloric surplus to gain muscle mass, you could end up gaining fat without controlling the intake.
With that said, for a bodybuilder in a bulking phase, adding energy-dense foods helps them reach their total caloric goals. Finding the right food that provides a lot of calories with not so much volume (food that doesn’t fill you up so easily) is essential. Cream cheese is a good way to pile on the calories.
Cream cheese is mainly composed of fats. Although it has some protein and carbs in both cases, it has less than 1 g per serving, which is pretty insignificant.
Most of the fat it has comes from saturated fats. When saturated fats are consumed in excess, they might increase the incidence of heart disease.
A bodybuilder still needs some fat added to their diets though since it helps produce hormones and provide a small amount of energy for the body. Therefore, choosing unsaturated fats (from vegetable sources like nuts, seeds, or olive oil) is a better option.
Since cream cheese lacks protein and carbs, you must add both macronutrients to balance the dish out. To have a more balanced plate, you can add a bagel (carb) with some fish (protein).
Cream cheese is not a very nutrient-dense food. Since it is highly processed, it lacks many nutrients a bodybuilder needs to stay in optimal condition. However, it does have some traces of certain nutrients.
Here are the top nutrients it has and how it benefits a bodybuilder:
- Vitamin A: It helps have good bone health, and this means that your bones are stronger. Having stronger bones means you are less likely to have an injury while training. Also, it is a potent immune booster.
- Calcium: Like vitamin A, it is also suitable for strong bone health. It is also essential for the contraction of muscles.
- Riboflavin: It helps turn the food you eat into usable energy by the body. It also seems to help the body use oxygen. Better oxygenation means that you are likely to have a better workout.
Want to learn more about high protein foods? Check out our article Bulking Foods For Bodybuilding.
3 Pros Of Eating Cream Cheese For Bodybuilding
Here are the top three reasons why you might want to add cream cheese to your next meal.
1. Helps You Add Calories
The main reason for adding cream cheese to your bodybuilder diet is that it helps you add calories. It is a food that doesn’t provide a lot of volume, which means it won’t take up too much space in your stomach.
This is essential for a bodybuilder in a bulking phase. Since calories are increased, it is tough to eat a lot of food. Energy-dense food allows adding the calories without increasing your fullness levels. Thus, cream cheese is one of the top foods to add when bulking.
2. Supports Immune Function
Due to the prevalence of vitamin A, it is a food to help you boost your immune function. A stronger immune system means that you are more likely to spend time at the gym than recovering at home.
Additionally, it has a small number of antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body. This also helps boost your immune system.
3. Improve Gut Health
Cream cheese has a small number of probiotics. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that we can supplement through our food to improve our gut health.
Increasing your probiotic intake helps you process foods better, which means you are less likely to have stomach problems that prevent you from going to the gym. viavisolutions.com
- Related Article: Is Peanut Butter Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
2 Cons of Eating Cream Cheese For Bodybuilding
Here are the top reasons why you might think twice the next time you add cream cheese to your diet:
1. Low in Protein
Since cream cheese is mostly fat, it doesn’t have the protein a bodybuilder needs. Although you do need some fat in your diet, you still need to control the portion sizes.
Protein is the main structure of our muscles. That is why we need it in large quantities when we are in a bulking phase. To balance out the macronutrients, add a protein source when you have cream cheese.
2. High in Saturated Fats
Cream cheese is mostly saturated fats. A large intake of saturated fats can lead to heart disease.
Additionally, saturated fats are harder to digest, which means that you could end up having gastric problems when you eat cream cheese.
Sometimes eating too much cheese can make you feel sleepy. Find out why
Can You Eat Cream Cheese Before Workouts?
Cream cheese is not the best food to add before a workout. Pre-workout you need easily digestible food that provides you with fast energy. This is done through simple carbs. Cream cheese is not a simple carb — it’s mostly fat. As such, cream cheese before training may produce stomach problems that affect performance.
Before a workout, the main goal is to provide the body with the energy it needs for the training session. Fats take longer to digest, which means that you don’t get energy very fast. For that, you need carbs, mainly simple carbs (fruits, sugars, or gels).
Cream cheese, since it is primarily a fat source, doesn’t help with this objective. If you are going to add cream cheese, make sure to have it 2-3 hours before training to prevent any stomach problems and feeling sluggish.
To provide for a steadier energy release, make sure to add a carb source like yams or toast (carbs), with some protein like chicken (protein).
Related Article: Should You Eat Fat Before A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)
Can You Eat Cream Cheese After Workouts?
Yes, you can eat cream cheese after a workout. Post-training, it would be best if you had all macronutrients, carbs, proteins, and fats. Cream cheese covers the fat part. This allows you to recover some of the energy lost during training, but be sure to add a protein and carb source.
After training, you need to replenish the energy lost. That is the main reason why you add carbs after training. You also need a source of protein to help your muscles grow. Finally, you need some fat to help develop hormones (like testosterone) dependent on fats. Testosterone is the male hormone that allows you to have a high muscle mass with low body fat.
Is Cream Cheese Good For Muscle Growth?
Cream cheese helps you with muscle growth by adding more calories to your diet. For you to gain muscle, there must be a caloric surplus (meaning you eat more calories than your body needs). Cream cheese aids in a surplus by being a higher calorie food, but on it’s own it won’t build muscle.
To facilitate muscle growth you still need to add a significant amount of carbs and protein to your overall diet. Adding cream cheese or not to your diet won’t make or break your muscle building goals.
- Related Article: Is Hummus Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? (Pros & Cons)
Tips For Incorporating Cream Cheese Into A Bodybuilding Diet
There are several tips I give my clients when they are looking to add cream cheese to their bodybuilding diet.
Here are the most common tips and tricks I give them:
Measure The Portion Size
Since cream cheese is very energy-dense, make sure to measure the portion size thoroughly.
Whether you are in a bulking phase or a cutting phase, you need to know how many grams you are having to prevent consuming more calories than you need.
If you want to consume a large size of cream cheese, make sure that you are in a bulking phase since you have a wider wiggle room for calories and fats.
Opt for The Reduced-Fat
If you are trying to cut back on your fat intake, you can opt for reduced-fat cream cheese.
However, not always are they going to be lower in calories. Since they need to modify it, sometimes they are higher in carbs but lower in fats.
Think about what your overall diet looks like to check whether to add more carbs or more fat to your meals.
Add a Protein
Cream cheese only has fats. That is why it is important to add a protein source when you have it.
You can add some salmon, chicken, or fish to increase your daily protein intake.
Make a Dip
Besides having cream cheese and spreading it on some bagels, you can create a healthy dip with it.
Mix some cream cheese, Greek yogurt, any spice or flavor of your choice, and you will get a creamy and healthy dip.
Heileson JL. Dietary saturated fat and heart disease: a narrative review. Nutr Rev. 2020 Jun 1;78(6):474-485. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuz091. PMID: 31841151.
Stephensen CB. Vitamin A, infection, and immune function. Annu Rev Nutr. 2001;21:167-92. doi: 10.1146/annurev.nutr.21.1.167. PMID: 11375434.
HOWARD JE. Calcium metabolism, bones and calcium homeostasis; a review of certain current concepts. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1957 Sep;17(9):1105-23. doi: 10.1210/jcem-17-9-1105. PMID: 13463073.
Woolf K, Manore MM. B-vitamins and exercise: does exercise alter requirements? Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Oct;16(5):453-84. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.16.5.453. PMID: 17240780.
Sacks FM, Lichtenstein AH, Wu JHY, Appel LJ, Creager MA, Kris-Etherton PM, Miller M, Rimm EB, Rudel LL, Robinson JG, Stone NJ, Van Horn LV; American Heart Association. Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017 Jul 18;136(3):e1-e23. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000510. Epub 2017 Jun 15. Erratum in: Circulation. 2017 Sep 5;136(10 ):e195. PMID: 28620111.
About The Author
Why Trust Our Content
On Staff at FeastGood.com, we have Registered Dietitians, coaches with PhDs in Human Nutrition, and internationally ranked athletes who contribute to our editorial process. This includes research, writing, editing, fact-checking, and product testing/reviews. At a bare minimum, all authors must be certified nutrition coaches by either the National Academy of Sports Medicine, International Sport Sciences Association, or Precision Nutrition. Learn more about our team here.
Have a Question?
If you have any questions or feedback about what you’ve read, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We respond to every email within 1 business day.